Research Topic 2 – Using ICT with students with disabilities

From my own knowledge Boardmaker is a technology that is commonly used as a visual prompt for students with special needs that have major difficulties in communication. The teacher can show the student a visual image along with an auditory sound to make the ‘action’ or ‘thing’ more understandable to the student. A teacher will often give a student a choice of two options, this allows them to think about the options and communicate what they want at the time. Boardmaker images are also used to map out a routine for a student in the day, this can help reduce anxiety the student may have about changes in their day as they will know what is going to happen next. Below is some examples of the symbols and pictures that can be used to allow student to communicate their wants and needs.

(http://www.spectronicsinoz.com/activities/pretend-play-communication-boards)

As I have outlined in previous posts, there is an increasing use of assistive technologies in a classroom setting and because of this there is a requirement for effective professional development experiences. The article I looked at, Assistive Technology User Group Perspectives of Early Childhood Professionals , took a case study approach, 10 teachers who had participated in assistive technology training groups and who were using an assistive technology in their classrooms were interviewed and provided responses regarding their perspectives on various assistive technologies.

While the article focusses on various programs, I was interested in the program called Boardmaker. Below is an excerpt from the article, which was the opinion of 2 teachers ; particularly the way they have been utilizing Boardmaker in the classroom.

We’re using a lot of the pictures, the Boardmaker™ pictures, for requests and
you know things like snacks. We usually make a lot of them and we’ve got
them for everything. We’ve got little visual prompts outside of the classroom
because they can’t remember what they’re supposed to do when they get to
school. Donna
We had an intervention meeting [on a particular student] and I’m using
Boardmaker™ cards specifically for her intervention. And in the meeting
they said ‘Well, who wants to make them?’ and I said ‘I’ve already got it
done!’ Anytime I felt like I could complete something that I knew I would
use, that just made all the difference to me. It made it all worthwhile, going
to the user groups. Carole

These are examples of realistic every day uses of the program which will allow students with no verbal skills to communicate on some level. This is exciting for teachers and parents alike.

Boardmaker is now available on the iPad, this has made the use of Boardmaker much more versatile and it is much easier to take out of a classroom context for students with limited communication. If students can communicate with Boardmaker at home before and after school, as well as during the holidays, they will become more familiar and capable of using the process. This means that the continuing evolution of technology is in this case making a program more usable but still relevant. As many students with disabilities rely on structure and predictability it is impossible to be continually changing programs with changes in technologies. I believe we need to focus on allowing easier use and functionality of existing programs such as Boardmaker on the iPad, rather than always looking to find a completely new and apparently improved program. This will allow students to adapt easier, and will mean less training for teachers. Hopefully improvements like this will be easy and painless to incorporate.

Resources

Parette,. Stoner, and  Watts (2009), Assistive Technology User Group Perspectives of Early
Childhood Professionals

Picture – http://www.spectronicsinoz.com/activities/pretend-play-communication-boards

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